Brazzaville lies on a large area to the north of the Congo River, near the Pool Malebo. Mbamu, a large island within the Pool, is part of the Republic of Congo's territory.
Brazzaville is 506 kilometres (314 miles) inland from the Atlantic Ocean and approximately 474 kilometres (295 miles) south of the equator. The city is a commune that is separated from the other regions of the republic; it is surrounded by the Pool Department. Around the city are large plains. The town is relatively flat, and situated at an altitude of 317 metres (1,040 feet).
To distinguish between the two African countries with "Congo" in their names, the Republic of the Congo is sometimes called Congo-Brazzaville, as opposed to Congo-Kinshasa (the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known from 1971 to 1997 as Zaïre, the capital of which is Kinshasa). Kinshasa lies on the southern bank of the Congo, directly across from Brazzaville. This is the only place in the world where two national capital cities are on opposite banks of a river, within sight of each other. Since the mid-19th century the two cities have been rivals in trade, sports and power. There have been proposals to connect the two capitals by a Brazzaville–Kinshasa Bridge. Studies reveal the anticipated cost is around 1.65 billion USD, but it is not expected that the project will be undertaken in the near or even distant future.
Brazzaville was founded by the French colonial empire upon an existing indigenous Bateke settlement called Ncuna, as part of the Scramble for Africa. The Italian-born explorer Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza, granted French citizenship in 1874, officially founded the settlement which commemorates his name on 10 September 1880. The local King, Makoko of the Téké, signed a treaty of protection with de Brazza which subjugated his lands to the French Empire. From October 1880 until May 1882 a small squad of troops led by Senegalese Sergeant Malamine Camara occupied the site, preventing the land from falling into Belgian hands. The first large scale building work of the city only began four years later in order as a competitor with Léopoldville (now Kinshasa) which Belgian colonists built on the other side of the river.
The Berlin Conference of 1884 placed French control over the area on an official footing. The city became the capital of the French Congo in 1904. It then continued as capital with the creation of French Equatorial Africa, a federation founded in 1910, of French colonial states which encompassed Gabon, the Central African Republic and Chad until 1960. 1910–1915 saw the construction of major municipal buildings, including a courthouse and headquarters for the Banque de l'AEF and Institut Pasteur. In 1924 the Congo-Océan railway came into service, linking Brazzaville with the Atlantic port of Pointe-Noire. Construction of the railway resulted in the death of over 17,000 Africans, which led to a revolt in 1928.
During World War II Brazzaville and the rest of French Equatorial Africa remained beyond the control of Vichy France; the city served as the capital of France Libre from 1940–1943. In 1944, Brazzaville hosted a meeting of the French resistance forces and representatives of France's African colonies. The resulting Brazzaville Declaration represented an attempt to redefine the relationship between France and its African colonies.
Until the 1960s, the city was divided into European (the center of the city) and African sections (Poto-Poto, Bacongo, and Makélékélé). In 1980 it became a "commune" separated from the surrounding Pool Department and divided into nine "arrondissements (boroughs).
The city has frequently been a staging ground for wars, including conflicts between rebel and government forces and between forces of the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR), and Angola. It was also the scene of bloody civil wars throughout the 1990s which resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and which forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee the city. More recently thousands of people leaving the DRC have found their way to Brazzaville; the local United Nations force and the DRC government have accused the city of deporting thousands of these refugees.
In April 2016 fighting occurred between police and local militia units, with at least 18 people killed.
As of the 2007 census, it had a population of 1.37 million. The projection of the CNSEE (national statistics centre) shows an increase to 1.7 million by 2015, but the projection was made before 2007 and based on a lower estimate of the population (1.26 million) than recorded in the census. The United Nations Population Division estimate for 2014 is 1.83 million. The populous city of Kinshasa (more than 10 million inhabitants in 2014), capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lies across the Congo River from Brazzaville. Together with Kinshasa, the combined conurbation of Kinshasa-Brazzaville has thus about 12 million inhabitants (although significant political and infrastructure challenges prevent the two cities from functioning with any meaningful connection).
Brazzaville, like Pointe-Noire, has both the status of a commune (municipality) and a department. It is thus governed by a municipal council and a departmental council. The mayor is the president of the municipal council.
The city is divided into nine arrondissements (boroughs):
The location of Brazzaville near the pool of the Congo River enabled it to grow as an industrial, trading and port settlement, in part due to the accumulation of raw materials extracted during the colonial period. Industries present in Brazzaville include machine shops, textiles, tanning, and manufacturing. As a key port on the Congo River, the city takes deliveries of raw materials, such as rubber, wood and agricultural products. From here they are generally sent onward to Pointe-Noire for export.
As the capital city of the Republic of Congo, many companies, government organizations and NGOs have regional offices in the city. The World Health Organization has its regional office for Africa located in Brazzaville. Companies headquartered in Brazzaville include Equatorial Congo Airlines and the mobile operator Warid Congo.
Notable buildings in the city include the Sacred Heart Cathedral, St Anne's Basilica built in 1949 by Roger Erell, and known for its green tiled roof; Erell also designed a house in the city for Charles de Gaulle. Other buildings include the Pierre Savorgnan de Brazza Mausoleum, the Nabemba Tower and the Congressional Palace. Other features include the Marien Ngouabi Mausoleum, Brazzaville Zoo and the Poto-Poto School of Painting. The United States Embassy for the Republic of the Congo is also in Brazzaville, as is the Dutch Honorary Consulate.
The World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa is based in Brazzaville on a vast campus at the Cité du Djoué.
The Marien Ngouabi University is a public university in Brazzaville. The university was founded in December, 1971 and has approximately 26,000 students.
Brazzaville, much like neighboring Kinshasa, features a tropical wet and dry climate. Its wet season, which runs from October–May, is longer than its dry season, which covers the remaining months. Brazzaville's driest months, July and August, see on average no significant precipitation. Since Brazzaville is south of the equator, its dry season begins at around its "winter" solstice, which is the month of June. The city experiences relatively consistent temperatures throughout the course of the year.
The city is home to Maya-Maya Airport, which lies in the centre of the city and which has regular flights to Pointe-Noire as well as international destinations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. A flight operates twice weekly between Brazzaville and Kinshasa, but the flight time is only five minutes.
The Congo-Ocean Railway has a station in the city and in 2014 was operating the La Gazelle train service every other day to Pointe-Noire and intermediate destinations.
The city is an important river port, with ferries sailing to Kinshasa and to Bangui via Impfondo. Ferries and fast private boats serve as the primary means of connection between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. The Livingstone Falls lie on the outskirts of the city, where the Djoué River meets the Congo, rendering river transport to the coast impossible, qualifying the railway as a portage railway.
Although there is no organised public transport system, privately owned buses are available in the capital.
Taxis are available on every street and are easily recognized, being painted with a green body and white top, and the fare for a short trip is CF700. About twenty percent of the vehicles in Brazzaville are taxis. There are also collective taxis that drive certain routes and charge CF150.Gaitana, Ukrainian singer who lived in Brazzaville for five years.
Serge Ibaka, professional basketball player born in Brazzaville.
Cyril Kongo, a French painter and graffiti artist, lived in Brazzaville in the 80s.
Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo